What should America do about gun violence? That was theSenate Judiciary Committee’s topic for its first hearing of 2013.
BY: Gayle Trotter
In my testimony during the hearing, I explained that theability to arm oneself is even more important for women than it is for men,since guns level the playing field between women and the physically strongermen who might attack them. We preserve meaningful protection for women bysafeguarding our Second Amendment rights to lawful self-protection. I urged thesenators to eschew self-defeating proposals that would fail to make Americanssafer and would harm women most.
Women often use firearms to defend against violent attacks.For women, guns reverse the balance of power in a violent confrontation becauseover 90 percent of violent crimes occur without a firearm, according to afederal study.
Concealed-carry laws help reverse that balance of power evenbefore an attack. Criminals cannot tell which potential victims can defendthemselves, and armed citizens can better defend against violence. These twoeffects indirectly benefit unarmed citizens and reduce crime rates, asdocumented by economist John Lott. The 10 states that adopted concealed-carrylaws over a 15-year span experienced 0.89 shooting deaths and injuries per100,000 people, less than half the 2.09 per 100,000 experienced in states thatdid not adopt such laws, Lott found.
My testimony included a detailed summary of 21 recent newsaccounts, each involving a woman using a firearm to protect herself and othersagainst one or more violent men. These examples included a woman who defendedherself against five burglars, a woman who thwarted an attempted shooting in aschool, a woman who saved her child from a kidnapper and a woman who stopped agunman in a movie theater.
Few of these news accounts ever gain national attention,despite their prevalence. Private citizens account for more than one-third ofall instances where a violent criminal is killed during the commission of afelony, according to a recent federal study. Americans use firearms defensively2.2 million to 2.5 million times a year, according to criminologist Gary Kleck,based on a sample in which women represented 46 percent of defensive gun use.
Abundant research has found that reduced gun ownershipresults in increased criminal home invasions and lethality of attacks onlaw-abiding citizens. “Homeowners who defend themselves make burglars generallywary of breaking into homes,” creating external benefits because “criminalscannot know in advance who is armed,” Lott found.
During the Senatehearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked why a semiautomatic rifle such asan AR-15 has value as a weapon of self-defense. I responded that AR-15 riflesare “accurate, they have good handling, they are light, they are easy for womento hold” and, yes, I highlighted their “scary-looking” appearance. Days later,the New York Times cited similar benefits, calling the rifle “fast, modern,ergonomically designed, relatively easy to handle” and highlighting itsappearance as “something commandos might carry.”